From Hatted restaurants to cheap thrills, discover our guide to Wollongong’s best restaurants.
When you’re craving a trip south for some fresh air and respite, we can’t recommend Wollongong enough. Just a 1.5-hour drive from Sydney CBD, the coastal town boasts some of the most pristine beaches and rock pools in NSW. In recent years, it’s turned from a pit stop destination for those travelling further south to a full-blown foodie haven. From Hatted restaurants to cheap thrills, here’s our guide to the best restaurants in Wollongong, that are certainly worth the drive.
Ain’t Nonna’s triples as your cafe, deli and trattoria. In the morning you can grab a freshly baked Italian pastry from the cabinet with perfectly poured ONA Coffee. By night, you’ll find them slinging delicious antipasti and house-made pasta. The husband and wife team Cassandra and Matthew Bugeja have a wealth of hospitality experience and their time in the kitchen together dates back to 2011 at Sydney’s fine dining restaurant, Becasse. Their passion for Mediterranean food and life’s simple pleasure of dining with friends over good food is what they have successfully brought to Wollongong. Start your meal with a selection of freshly cut deli meats like Wagyu Bresaola and 16-Month San Daniele Proscuitto, alongside Vannella Burrata and their House Focaccia. Move onto pastas which are ever-evolving to showcase the best seasonal ingredients. Current favourites include the Gnocchetti al Burro with brown butter and hazelnut, and the Cavatelli Bolognese which is a spiced chorizo bolognese. Find out more here.
This restaurant was born out of the friendship and passion of two ladies in hospitality – Keana Lufe and Maria Luciani. Together they have created an inviting space that feels like home to the community, and a beautiful menu that showcases seasonal ingredients and dishes inspired by their past and present. They describe it as modern European but show no mercy when it comes to sticking with a theme if it means putting up delicious dishes. Cured meats highlight Maria’s Italian roots, native ingredients pay homage to Australia while bao buns show Chef Keana’s love for Asian flavours. Highlight dishes include the Soft Pretzel which is baked in-house each day, Black Angus Beef Tartare with ponzu marinade and crispy tapioca chips, a vegetarian Wellington with mushroom duxelle and pumpkin puree, and hibachi grilled Cabbage served with seeded mustard cream sauce and green herb oil. Find out more here.
Babyface really took the Wollongong foodie scene to another level back in 2016. Offering a relaxed dining experience and sleek interiors, it’s where you go when you want to impress. If we had to pigeonhole the menu, we’d say it’s modern Australian but it’s really just a showcase of their supplier’s best seasonal produce. You can feel a real connection to the food you eat as the team know exactly where it came from and are usually mates with the growers. On the current menu, we love the sounds of Hiramasa Kingfish with buttermilk and yuzu, Charcoal Wagyu with house pita and beetroot, Smoked Cauliflower with chickpea miso butter, and Hasselback Potatoes with Nduja sauce. The restaurant could also double as a low-fi wine bar with a menu that boasts an incredible selection of minimal-intervention producers. Receiving a Hat in the 2023 Good Food Guide Awards reminded us that they should still be on the radar. Find out more here.
For no-frills Italian, we’d head straight to Lupa. This family-run Italian restaurant is bustling most nights of the week with families coming to chow down on traditional Neapolitan-style pizza. The team also serves a selection of fresh pasta which is made in-house, and there are always specials up on the board to showcase the best seasonal ingredients. Our pizza picks include the Regina with a tomato base, fior di latte cheese, and prosciutto, and the Patate with fior di latte cheese, sliced potato, and rosemary. In true Italian style, the house wine is served in a quarter or half-litre carafe and pairs perfectly with the pizzas. Find out more here.
Yes, Wollongong even has a steakhouse! Debutant combines the classic French bistro with a modern Australian steakhouse. For the hard-core steak fans, you’ll be impressed by the dry age cabinet within the restaurant that showcases some of Australia’s best cuts of beef. This is Chef Daniel Sherley’s second restaurant on Keira Street with Rookie Eatery being his first, and another great option in Wollongong for fine dining with the menu showcasing contemporary Australian food with Asian influences. He shows off his meticulous attention to detail and French-style culinary techniques at Debutant, putting up grilled meats that are cooked to perfection. The Steak Frites are where it’s at with particular kudos to the 2R Fullblood Wagyu with a 9BMS, served with frites and peppercorn cognac cream sauce. Find out more here.
Santino comes from the team behind Kneading Ruby which is another incredible Italian restaurant in Wollongong that focuses on Neapolitan-style pizzas. With this venture, they turn their attention to more refined Italian dishes and house-made pasta. Earning a Hat in the 2023 Good Food Guide Awards has solidified their position as one of Wollongong’s best restaurants, and a regional NSW restaurant certainly worth the visit. The space is reminiscent of an old-school Italian diner with vintage Italian prints on the walls, empty bottles of wine wrapped around the outskirts of the tables, and tones of red and black showing grandeur. The menu is constantly changing so no visit will present the same dishes but our current favourites are the Heirloom and Tomato Salad with stracciatella and black olive crumb, Agnolotti Lamb Ragu with burnt butter sage and bay leaf, and Foxground Black Angus Bistecca with a punchy salsa verde. Find out more here.
His Boy Elroy
There are a handful of places to get your dirty burger fix in Wollongong but none quite like His Boy Elroy. This sports bar is known for broadcasting major basketball games and every Wednesday they do a $10 burger special which is impossible to get into without a booking. There’s bench seating that wraps around the bar so you can chew the fat with the bartenders and watch games in prime position. You can’t go wrong with any burgers but our favourites are the Fat Boy with a Wagyu beef patty, iceberg, pickles and special sauce, and the Heisenburger with southern fried chicken, iceberg, hot sauce and a blue cheese sauce. They also serve hot wings and fries which are coated in what can only be described as an addictive paprika lacing. To go with your meal are a rotating selection of craft beers from local and international brewers. Find out more here.
With Wollongong’s newest hotel TOTTO came a new Italian eatery. Head Chef Kris Swiecnski is at the helm of the kitchen, bringing with him his laid-back South Coast attitude from working at Hill Bar in Gerringong, and his culinary expertise from working with Merivale’s Newport pub, Bert’s Bar & Brasserie in Sydney. The Mediterranean-inspired menu features everything from Wood-fired Bread, fresh deli cuts of Mortadella, Sopressa and Proscuitto, Spatchcock with capers and herb jus, Crumbed Pork Cotoletta with burnt butter and sage, a rotating pasta menu and pizzas which are the main event. There’s a beautiful laid-back atmosphere making it perfect for family gatherings where you’re guaranteed to find something on the menu everyone will love. Find out more here.
Beast Good Food Eatery
Beast pumps out the best ramen in Wollongong in a very cool and low-key setting which we love. Choose between two ramens – the signature Beast Ramen made with a pork-bone marrow broth and the Beast Black Ramen with bonito and konbu broth. Both have an incredible depth of flavour and don’t taste dissimilar to what you’d find in the back streets of Tokyo. On the menu is a selection of Japanese beers so you can have an authentic experience. Find out more here.
This wine bar is open till 2am on Fridays and Saturdays serving a killer wine list and Asian bites. Pull up into the velvet booth seating and let the bartenders recommend wines to suit your palate with a menu showcasing Australia’s best wine regions, international favourites and a section dedicated to skin contacts. Food options include irresistible Asian bites like Spring Rolls, Korean Popcorn Chicken, Dumplings which are made fresh in-house and Bao Buns. Night Parrot is the perfect place to go for date night with a dimly lit space and romantic feel, or perhaps when all the clubs have shut their doors and you’re after a nightcap. Find out more here.
We’d go as far as saying Sakura stands up to some of the best Japanese restaurants in Sydney. They do things the old school way – taking bookings over the phone, writing your order out on a piece of paper. It keeps things humble and makes the food even more impressive when it comes out looking and tasting as it does. As you walk in you’ll notice the incredible cuts of fish stored in the cabinet for viewing and you can watch the chef’s mastery as they cut beautiful pieces of sashimi to use across the menu. Non-negotiables are the Sashimi Tacos which you can get with salmon, spicy tuna or miso kingfish, the Chirashi Salad which is a riot of flavour from yuzu-dressed sashimi pieces, green tea soba noodles, housemade egg omelette, tempura crunch and a sweet soy dressing, and the Crunchy Kingfish Roll topped with yuzu soy, tempura crunch and flying fish roe. Find out more here.